I’m not sure about you, but where I’m from in Scotland, getting a white Christmas is rather unheard of in recent years. So, to satiate the desire for that winter feeling that a lot of us think about, some turn to movies, songs and books. Well, instead of those, how about a survival game? It may have nothing to do with Christmas, sure, but it’s set in a perfect winter-draped forest and seems good enough to me to settle into. Let’s explore, shall we?
The Frosts: First Ones is a game of solitude, survival and the supernatural. Set in a frozen, seemingly post-apocalyptic world that isn’t too dissimilar to our own, you play as a hunter-gatherer called Berak. Berak lives in a small settlement in the wild along with some other hunters in a seemingly tranquil life until he is approached by Cilla from the settlement who informs him of her husband Hendrik’s disappearance. Berak, determined to find Hendrik and bring him home safely, then sets out on his own journey through the wilderness.
Set out as a top-down point and click, it is now your task to navigate through the chilling landscape, find tracks that could lead to Hendrik and discover just where he has disappeared to. The further you travel from the safety and familiarity of your settlement, the more out of depth you begin to feel. The effects of the seemingly perpetual winter are more than apparent throughout the untouched landscape—if you were to find yourself in a forest like this in real life, most people would probably not see the other end.
It is very much a solitary adventure, despite the main objective. You will feel as alone as Berak does when you’re playing, and this is thanks to the incredibly realistic and eerie atmosphere that The Frosts creates. Survival games can often struggle to make a realistic feeling experience, and this can more often than not let the entire game down as a whole. This is not the case with The Frosts. As you traverse dangerous ravines and try to carve your way around frozen trees, gusts of chilling wind and the crunch of untouched snow are all you can hear aside from the background music. These simple effects alone added tenfold to the experience; at one point I felt so immersed that I was convinced my room was much colder than it really was.
One word to describe The Frosts would have to be compelling. My brother joked as he watched me streaming that it was a “walking simulator with some plot”, and whilst I do agree to some extent it could be described as a walking simulator, it certainly isn’t a straightforward one. The gameplay at first was quite slow-paced and it is very dialogue-heavy—Berak even monologues occasionally—but if you can work your way around this, it is a very intriguing experience. Another issue arises with the dialogue itself; there are some translation issues every now and then which can slow you down a little bit, but it doesn’t make The Frosts unplayable in the slightest. If you can overlook the finer details, you can absolutely enjoy the experience.
Whilst the general design and visuals are unique, the pixelated style does harbour some small problems. Some of the terrains can be confusing to navigate at times, added in with the pixelated style and the fact that Berak can often blend in with the environment, you may often become disorientated as you try to find your way around rocks and foliage.
One aspect I enjoyed was the small mini-game like objectives that you would run into whilst you searched for clues on Hendrik’s whereabouts. The Frosts likes to throw the odd red herring at you—be wary of blood in the snow, as it may not lead you to Hendrik…
…but to the jaws of a grizzly bear instead.
The other mini-games like scaling rock faces and tending to an injured animal’s wounds are also fun to find, even if they may take a few tries to master.
With 30 achievements to complete that are both story-based and optional, they are all easily obtainable for completionists. The Frosts has around 2-3 hours of gameplay depending on how thorough your runs are and whether you like to explore every nook and cranny of the forest like I do for the fear of missing any details.
Overall, The Frosts: First Ones is a compellingly unique survival game that absolutely deserves some more recognition. The details put into the different areas of the wilderness alongside the sound effects and music only add to the immersive atmosphere of the frozen landscape. Whilst some terrain design can be confusing at times and there are some small errors with dialogue translation, it is definitely a hidden treasure amongst indie games.
As for the fate of Hendrik? Well, you’ll just have to brush up on your forest survival skills and dig out some winter clothes to find out.